STUC names and shames insurance giants who blocked justice for pleural plaques sufferers

October 13th 2011

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- Public should be made fully aware of their insurance providers’ unacceptable behaviour

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has named and shamed the five insurance giants who were responsible for dragging pleural plaques sufferers to the Supreme Court to challenge their rights to compensation.

The move comes as asbestos campaign groups joined calls for the public to be made fully aware of their insurance providers’ unacceptable behaviour.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Scottish Parliament was within its rights to pass a new law restoring pleural plaques victims’ right to compensation after the House of Lords controversially decreed the condition was harmless.

In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court rejected insurance companies’ arguments that the new Scottish law breached their human rights.

Five of the world’s largest insurance companies – AXA General Insurance Limited, AXA Insurance UK plc, which operates companies like Swiftcover.com, Norwich Union Insurance Limited (Aviva), Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance plc and Zurich Insurance plc – ganged together in an attempt to deny workers who had developed pleural plaques, caused by asbestos exposure, the right to justice.

STUC Deputy General Secretary, Dave Moxham, said:

“These insurance companies have behaved disgracefully in all of this. Yesterday was a resounding victory for justice over corporate greed, but these companies deserve to be named and shamed for the way they’ve behaved.

“People have the right to know how disgracefully their insurance companies have behaved. I’m sure it will surprise many to learn that they’re giving their money to companies which are dragging those exposed to asbestos through the courts simply for corporate greed.

“The time for denial and delay from the insurance giants is over. They have to realise that and stop obstructing the rights of pleural plaques sufferers to justice and proper compensation.”

Phyllis Craig, senior welfare rights officer at Clydeside Action on Asbestos, said:

“The decision of the Supreme Court has resoundingly reasserted the right to pursue compensation in Scotland for Pleural Plaque. However, had the Insurers not had the audacity to challenge Scottish law in the first place, many compensation cases would have been settled.

“The reality is that many of our clients have died in the intervening years, whilst others have gone on to develop more sinister conditions.

“The Insurers can no longer avoid their responsibilities, and I sincerely hope that they now move quickly to settle claims.

“The Insurers are household names, and many people with Pleural Plaque will have policies with them. It is for them to decide whether they should consider seeking alternative Insurance cover.”

Bob Dickie Chair of Clydebank Asbestos Group who represents around 200 pleural plaques victims said:

“When it comes to asbestos victims and insurance companies it is just one long battle. The insurers are happy to take the premiums and then they fight through the courts to avoid paying out.

“And the longer they can tie things up in the courts the longer they are not paying out on claims.

“Their behaviour is unacceptable and everyone should know what they’re up to. “

Laura Blane, partner at Thompsons Solicitors, who handle 90% of the estimated 1200 pleural plaques cases in Scotland, said they hoped the insurance industry would get on with compensating pleural plaques sufferers fairly.

“Yesterday’s ruling now means that we can get on with getting our clients the compensation they rightly deserve.

“Any more tricks from the industry I’m sure would not be looked on favourably by anyone, especially the victims who are constantly living with the distress and discomfort pleural plaques can cause. “

Ian Drew, from Cumbernauld is one of Scotland’s small army of the pleural plaques sufferers whose case has been in legal limbo for the last five or six years.

He worked as a maintenance fitter at Dalmarnock Power Station in Glasgow in 1961, where asbestos wasn’t just used to insulate pipes, but tubes and the boilers themselves. He feels the insurance industry need to take their responsibilities seriously:

“I feel these companies spent money needlessly to defend the indefensible. The amount they spent to try and dodge their responsibility could have gone towards paying out.

“We’ve waited so long for this all because the insurance companies wanted to keep their coffers full for themselves.

“They’ve now got a responsibility to pay out. They should take it seriously.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more details see:

http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/current-cases/CCCaseDetails/case_2011_0108.html

For further comment: Dave Moxham 0141 337 8100

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